March 7, 2016 / 2:53 PM / 4 years ago

Italy's Atlantia may sell stake in motorway to support foreign growth

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian airport and motorway operator Atlantia (ATL.MI) may sell a stake in its Autostrade per l’Italia unit as a way to support growth abroad, Atlantia Chief Executive Giovanni Castellucci said on Monday.

To increase its exposure to the global economy, the group wants to expand its aviation business, Castellucci said, adding Atlantia was looking at the privatization of the Nice airport but also at possible bargains in Latin America.

The group currently operates Rome’s airports through Aeroporti di Roma unit and manages 5,000 km (3,107 miles) of motorways in Italy and Latin America through its division Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI).

More than 70 percent of its revenue comes from its domestic road business, which in recent years suffered due to an economic recession in Italy that cut motorway traffic.

“If necessary we are ready to sell a stake in Autostrade per l’Italia,” Castellucci told an analyst conference, adding he was sure the group could find good investment opportunities abroad.

Italian newspapers reported last week that Atlantia, which has a market value of 19.4 billion euros ($21 billion), could sell up to 30 percent of ASPI to fund acquisitions.

One third of ASPI, which is currently wholly owned by Atlantia, could have a value of over 5 billion euros, brokerage house Intermonte said.

“We are looking at airports... in particular at the ones exposed to global growth,” Castellucci said, adding, however, the group was not under pressure to do acquisitions in the short term.

The airport of Nice, on the French Riviera, was interesting, the CEO said, adding the group was also looking at assets owned by distressed sellers in Latin America, particularly in Brazil.

The group in August broke off talks with international investors to sell a minority stake in its Rome airports business because it wanted to retain full control of governance at the company.

On Friday, Atlantia reported a 4 percent rise in full-year revenues, helped by higher traffic on its motorways and airports.

Atlantia shares were down 2.3 percent at 23.16 euros by 1432 GMT, roughly in line with Milan’s blue-chip index.

Reporting by Francesca Landini and Stefano Bernabei

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